New 'snow gate' helps drivers on 5 Freeway
A new gate installed along Interstate 5 in Castaic allows drivers to turn around and travel back in the other direction when road conditions are dicey.
That came in handy on Thursday, when a snowstorm forced the closure of the freeway through the Grapevine in the midst of the Thanksgiving travel crush.
Crews rolled open the gate north of Lake Hughes Road just after the freeway was shut down about 4:30 a.m., said Eric Menjivar, a spokesman for the California Department of Transportation.
It was the first time that Caltrans had to use the equipment, which was installed last month as part of an ongoing construction project.
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The 52-foot-long steel gate weighs 5 tons, and crews can open it by hand in less than two minutes. It allows drivers to turn around on the freeway rather than using surface streets, which creates congestion along on- and off-ramps and in local communities, Menjivar said. It’s the first gate of its kind Caltrans has installed in Los Angeles County.
“We were pretty excited to get this new gate into use. We were looking forward to it,” Menjivar said. “We want to get people to their destination, and we think this ‘snow gate’ will help people get to where they need to get to.”
It appeared to be working well — by early Thursday afternoon, delays along the I-5 in the Castaic area were ranging from 15 to 20 minutes; usually, with a full freeway closure, they’d be much worse, Menjivar said.
He said workers were plowing snow “so that hopefully we can get it open for everyone to get home in time for Thanksgiving dinner.”
By 2:55 p.m., the freeway reopened in both directions and traffic was soon flowing freely.